“No Men in Womens’ Bathrooms”:

The Message That Won in Houston!

BY JOAN DESMOND 11/04/2015

Y ESTERDAY, a controversial Houston, Texas ordinance that secured protections for LGBT people was defeated by a starkly simple message: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”

As I read the news, I wondered if there was a lesson here that deserved wider attention.

The steady advance of sexual rights has prompted legal experts, Catholic bishops and moral theologians to construct natural-law arguments and issue dire warnings to the public. We have been told that religious freedom, a child’s right to be raised by his biological mother and father, and the legal rights of natural parents are endangered when legislatures and courts put the desires of individual adults ahead of the common good.

As the American public loses its taste for reasoned political discourse, these arguments have met with limited success. Thus, when Houston’s city council passed the anti-discrimination measure earlier this year, there was every reason to expect that the controversy it sparked would subside and the naysayers would fall into line.

Instead, opponents of the measure–which barred discrimination in housing, employment, and business services based on gender identity and sexual orientation, among other protected classes–honed a message that cut through all the charges and counter-charges coming from both sides of the debate. The New York Times reported today:

“Opponents said the measure would allow men claiming to be women to enter women’s bathrooms and inflict harm, and that simple message–‘No Men in Women’s Bathrooms’–was plastered on signs and emphasized in television and radio ads, turning the debate from one about equal rights to one about protecting women and girls from sexual predators.”

The bill’s supporters, as the Times’ noted, cried foul.

“In Houston, the ordinance’s proponents– including Mayor Annise D. Parker, local and national gay rights and civil rights groups and the actress Sally Field–accused opponents of using fearmongering against gay people, and far-fetched talk of bathroom attacks, to generate support for a repeal. The ordinance, they noted, says nothing specifically about whether men can use women’s restrooms.”

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